Service-oriented architectures (SOAs) are nothing new. They’ve been around (in one guise or another) since at least the early 1990s. In fact, the latest development in service-oriented architectures-Web services-has now been around approximately four years. So, what’s the big deal about IBM’s SOA announcement on April 21st? Quite a bit, if you’re interested in business process management (BPM) and can wait until later this year for the rest of the story to play out.

In fact, what wasn’t in the announcement is probably more important that what was in it. IBM basically announced new software and services that enable customers to move toward a service-oriented architecture. Specifically, new versions of WebSphere Studio Application Developer Integration Edition (WS AD) and the newly renamed WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation (WS BISF) 5.1.
Both include new, BPM-oriented support. For example, WebSphere Studio Application Developer includes a visual process designer and debugger for creating BPEL4WS 1.1 process flows, while WebSphere Business Integration Server includes native deployment support for BPEL4WS processes. In addition, WebSphere Application Developer also includes automated migration of version 5.0 process flows into BPEL4WS flows. These are solid, BPM-oriented additions to the WebSphere product family.

What IBM didn’t announce is a variety of future product changes, expected later this year, that will further support SOA and BPM. For example, support for WebSphere Business Integration Modeler and Monitor is expected in the second half of the year, as well as a future announcement on their Common Event Infrastructure, a unified approach to managing events at both the system (a la Tivoli) and business levels (and a key ingredient of a good BPM platform).

Upside Uptake
While service-oriented architecture is yet another buzzword that organizations have to digest, the process of turning business and IT functionality into discrete services that can be composed, combined, and dynamically managed is no doubt the fundamental direction that most organizations are (or will be) moving in over the next five years. This is particularly important for any organization interested in BPM because services-oriented architectures provide a dynamic foundation that makes true BPM not only easier, but more effective.

What’s important in this announcement is that fact that IBM’s latest WebShere releases (both the development tools and runtime environment) support BPEL and move BPM toward a core functionality expected in fundamental IT infrastructure components. IBM’s future announcements (and product directions) are also critical to the future of BPM and SOA. While IBM is a large company that may not always be the first to deploy new technologies (though they certainly adopted Linux moderately quickly), the fact that it is driving its customer base toward SOA and BPM standards and technologies is important because it furthers the acceptance of these technologies and reduces potential risk from their adoption. That’s why Upside Research believes that IBM’s SOA announcement is important to BPM vendors and any organization interested in building a more dynamic IT and business application architecture.